Peanut allergies strike fear into the hearts of many parents. It’s an understandable concern — peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the United States. It affects up to 3 percent of all children (and rates have risen steadily over the past 15 years).
Infants exposed early to peanuts are considerably less at risk for developing a life-threatening allergy to the legume, according to research involving UC San Francisco scientists that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February.
In clinical trials of children at risk for a peanut allergy, those who avoided peanuts until they were five years old were more than three times as likely to develop an allergy than those who were exposed to the food regularly starting from between 4 months and 11 months of age.
Among infants that showed no early sensitivity, only 2 percent of those exposed to peanuts as babies developed allergies, compared to 14 percent of those who avoided the food. Early exposure seemed to work well even among children who showed early indications of nut sensitivity — only 11 percent of kids who were fed peanuts regularly as babies went on to develop allergies, compared with 35 percent of those who were not.